Waiters Say the Darndest Things

check.jpg
You know what's understood in every language? A check presenter.

I'd wager there's not a diner from Dubuque to Dubai who's surprised by what he finds when he opens the leather-bound book that appears at the end of every meal. No competent restaurant-goer wastes time wondering if he's been given a souvenir postcard or a lottery ticket. He knows for certain he's being asked to pay up for whatever gustatory fun he just had. Them's the rules.

Still, most servers feel obliged to say something when the dining experience makes the awkward transition from hospitality to commerce. Although a simple "thank you" or "it's been my pleasure to serve you" would suffice, the most popular closing line by far is "I can take that whenever you're ready" -- even in restaurants where there isn't a cashier or take-out stand to confuse the situation.

But last night I heard what has to be among the strangest check delivery lines out there.

My mother was in town for her birthday, so we went to Fearing's (christened "the quintessential post-crash luxury restaurant" by arbiter of upscale Josh Ozersky.) When our server arrived with the check presenter, he murmured, "and now, a note from our chef." It wasn't a love letter.

I'm guessing the server was trying to make the point that he wasn't responsible for the restaurant's prices and hoping to avert any resentment that might help shrink his tip. But that barely sounds plausible to me, and -- as a dozen-year veteran of the front of the house -- I always take the server's side.

Big picture-wise, of course, a single verbal gaffe doesn't matter much. My mother loved her lamb chops and was charmed by a surprise slice of chocolate birthday cake. Still, the exchange got me thinking about the stock lines servers wrongly include in their repertoires.

Follow City of Ate on Twitter: @cityofate.

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12 comments
Pinklacepunk
Pinklacepunk

I think that's funny. I would die laughing if my server said that to me. And I know it's hard to believe but even in those restaurants where there is no cashier in sight people still take the check to the front and try to pay the host. Hence "I'll take that when your ready", it never stops amazing me how clueless people can be.

joeat
joeat

That is a great line and a welcome touch of humor. I would also have kicked in a little extra for someone that actually used their brain.

Carissa
Carissa

That's a great line! I'd have tipped extra for such a witty waiter.

MattL1
MattL1

I hate myself for it now, but I used to use the old " are you still working on that?" The only thing worse than hearing that from a server is being the server who accidentally lets it slip and has to stand there while the customer chastises them for equating a meal to "work."

Having waited tables, I find it very easy to pick out when my server is resorting to stock material. However, having waited tables, I find it even easier to forgive it.

It's the one job that EVERYONE should be required to do for at least a month of their lives.

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

Do you need any change? Usually said without looking at how much cash has been left.

Genevieve
Genevieve

Lighten up, and ask your mother what she did with the money for your braces.

Gipson
Gipson

I imagine tone played a big part of this, but isn't it possible it was just a joke? That's how I took it in reading in.

Pinklacepunk
Pinklacepunk

I totally agree, everyone should have to wait tables but I say are you still working on that all the time and no one has ever been offended by it...

Hanna Raskin
Hanna Raskin

In print, it definitely sounds like a joke. Perhaps it was the server's ultra-serious, unironic delivery that made the expression seem so odd. Nice to think we might have been laughing with him instead of at him.

J
J

Yeah, sounded like a joke to me...

Hanna Raskin
Hanna Raskin

Steve, I worked as a waitress for about 14 years. I starting earning money for college at a Coney Island in southeastern Michigan, and went on to wait tables at a Chinese restaurant, a brewpub, an oyster bar and a fancy, starred-and-diamonded white tablecloth joint.

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